30 years old, the AIDS epidemic is presenting new challenges for science. With the aging of the epidemic comes the
aging of many of those who were infected early on and survived. September 18 marks the 5th annual
National HIV and Aging Awareness Day, which is aimed at focusing attention on
issues surrounding HIV prevention, testing, care, and treatment among the
aging population, and on
the need for research on HIV and aging.
active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has been so effective in treating
HIV/AIDS since it became available in 1996 that many of those who became
infected relatively early in the epidemic are now in their 50s, 60s, and even
70s. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than half of the people living with
HIV in the U.S. will be over the age of 50 by 2015.
“I’m 52 years old and my parents are in their
70s, but when we talk it’s like I’m in my 70s with them,” said an HIV-positive
man in New York in an interview for the Research on Older Adults with HIV study
(ROAH). He takes medication for HIV,
depression, kidney cancer, high blood pressure, and lipodystrophy—ailments
usually associated with geriatric patients.
The ROAH study found that on average participants were managing three
other illnesses along with HIV. The
problem is compounded by the stigma that continues to attach to HIV, especially
among the older generation, and the fact that doctors are less likely to raise
the subject of HIV prevention and treatment with their older patients.
causing chronic diseases to show up sooner in HIV positive patients? Scientists are finding that a constant
inflammatory immune response (also referred to as a chronically high-alert
immune system), caused by long-term exposure to HIV is causing what is termed
is known to be an underlying contributor to nearly every chronic disease, from
heart disease and stroke to diabetes, so chronic inflammation puts a person at
a greater risk for any of these diseases.
However, lifestyle factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, and
recreational drug use are also risk factors for many chronic diseases, and
working to make healthier lifestyle choices is one way for people who are HIV
positive to prevent chronic disease. Getting involved with a support group is
another way to improve personal well-being and health, and can be especially
helpful for older people.
information and to see how you can get involved and make a difference, go to
the AIDS Institute’s National HIV and Aging Awareness Day website.